Bomb Squad - Diving blind
Unexploded bombs and landmines litter Cambodia’s waterways, posing a hazard to local fishermen. Now, a team of bomb disposal divers is being formed to diffuse the problem. Charles Fox photographs the dive team in training
A diver wears a blacked out mask to mimic the zero-visibility conditions found in most of Cambodia’s rivers. This training aid not only helps deal with near zero visiblity but also trains the divers brain to determine bomb shapes and texture by touch.
Float like a butterfly...
Dara, 23, performs butterfly kicks in the surf of Koh Rong, Cambodia. Having worked clearing landmines and unexploded ordinance for three years, he’s one of 14 trainee divers who will become the first underwater bomb disposal squad. The trainees need a high level of fitness to be able to work in harsh environments, which include strong river currents.
Data on each diver’s depth and time are collected post-dive.
YOU SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND
Divers are spun until dizzy to condition them to handle disorientation.
On the beach, trainees practice search techniques with a circular line – in each rotation they widen the search perimeter.
Heng Sambo, 37, falls into the surf during an exercise where the divers are spun until dizzy to condition them to handle disorientation.
TEAM LEADERS KEEP TRACK
A team leader keeps track of the search pattern as well as depths and times.
Bombs in the dark
A diver in a blacked out mask locates a fake bomb.
Recently, a lucrative trade in scrap metal has sprung up and some fishermen have taken to retrieving bombs from rivers and removing the explosives by hand – with much danger to themselves and those around them.
First training dive
An inert bomb, used for training.
Lorn Sarath, 24, enters the water for the first dive of the course; A diver guided by a rope surfaces after a blackout dive.
It’s thought there are 4-6 million landmines and unexploded bombs in Cambodia. Although the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has been running a clean-up operation since the 1990s, estimates predict it will be another 10-20 years before it is complete.